Building a table is a satisfying project that takes you to the roots of basic, do-it-yourself woodworking. In about a weekend, you will have a simple, beautiful table designed to your own specifications and needs—all without having a workshop with expensive, specialized tools. The table in this project has a 30-inch by 48-inch tabletop made of veneer hardwood veneer plywood.
While a table has few components, it can be difficult to build a solid, wobble-free table with no visible fasteners. Simply screwing table legs to the table apron will result in a shaky table, since table legs nearly always need some type of extra bracing. In this project, you will fashion your own corner leg braces, or you can purchase inexpensive surface-mount corner metal braces. Diagonal bracing means that you spend less time on feats of engineering and more time on styling the look of your table.
Equipment / Tools
- Tape measure
- Circular saw
- Miter saw
- Speed square
- Drill and bits
- Socket wrench
- 4 x 4-foot sheet of 3/4-inch hardwood veneer plywood
- 2 2x2 boards, 8 feet long
- 3 1x3 boards, 8 feet long
- 4 surface-mount metal corner braces for table aprons (optional)
- 1-inch screws
- 8 5/16 x 1 1/2-inch lag screws with and washers
- 4 3-inch metal corner braces with screws
Cut the Tabletop
Mark the plywood sheet for cutting at 48 by 30 inches. Mark the board so that the grain of the plywood runs lengthwise. Make the cut with a circular saw. You can save the remaining 18-inch strip for another project.
Minimize splintering of the plywood veneer by using a saw blade with 60 teeth (or more) per inch and cutting from the back side of the sheet. Set the blade depth so that only about 1/8 inch of the blade extends below the panel.
Cut the Table Legs
Cut the four table legs from the 2x2 boards, using a miter saw. For a standard-height table, cut the legs at 29 inches, or make the legs longer or shorter as desired.
Shape the Table Legs
Each of the table legs needs a diagonal face cut into the top 3 to 4 inches to receive the lag bolts. To make these cuts, adjust the bevel angle of the miter saw to 45 degrees. Cut off a 45-degree slice, 1/2-inch wide and 3 to 4 inches long, from the top of each leg.
This is a tricky cut, so it is helpful to make several experimental cuts on scrap 2x2 boards.
Mark the Table Leg and Apron Inset
Place the plywood tabletop face down on top of a clean towel. With the T-square and the pencil, mark four lines along each of the four edges, 1 inch in from the edges. Place each of the table legs at the insides of the four corners of this marked rectangle. If you like this inset, keep it as it is. However, you can change the apron inset, ranging from flush at the edges all of the way to about 4 inches inward.
Situating the table legs flush against the tabletop edges gives it a stockier, farmhouse-table appearance. Insetting the legs adds shadow and depth, providing a more graceful look.
Cut the Table Apron Materials
The four-sided table apron will extend from the inner side of one leg to the inner side of an adjacent leg. The apron serves to stabilize the table legs, hide fasteners, and provide visual appeal. Cut the apron pieces from 1x3 boards, using the miter saw. Cut two pieces to length at 46 inches and two at 28 inches. If you varied the inset, adjust these lengths accordingly.
Mark and Cut the Corner Braces
This step applies if you opt for creating your own corner braces. Dry-fit one of the table legs on the back of the tabletop, with an apron piece touching each side. Be careful to place each item precisely along the pencil marks. Lay another apron piece across the top of the 90-degree junction formed by the two table apron sides. Use a speed square to make sure that the brace is at a 45-degree angle. With the pencil, mark off the inner dimensions of the brace. Cut the piece at the mark, using the miter saw. Repeat for the other three braces.
Note: If using surface-mount metal corner braces, omit this step.
Attach the Corner Braces
Assemble the four legs with the four apron pieces between the legs. Put each of the four corner braces in the corners. For wood braces, drill two pilot holes on each side then attach each brace with four 1-inch screws. If using surface-mount metal corner braces, use the manufacturer-provided screws.
Anchor the Legs
Drill two 1/4-inch holes per leg, driving through the apron and into the leg. Be careful not to drill all of the way through the table leg. Fit washers onto the lag bolts, then turn them into the pilot holes using a socket wrench. Tighten the legs securely, but be careful not to overtighten and split the wood.
Attach the Leg-Apron Assembly
Place the leg-and-apron assembly on the bottom of the tabletop, and center it within the pencil lines on the top. Attach the assembly to the tabletop with four corner braces, using the provided screws.
Tips for Finishing Your Table
With the table now built, you can finish the table in any manner you choose. Because of the fine hardwood veneer top, likely you will want to lightly sand it, then apply stain and sealant. If you wish to paint the table, you can save money by purchasing lower cost wood rather than hardwood veneer plywood.
If you purchased hardwood 2x2 for the legs, these also can be stained and sealed. If you chose lesser grade dimensional lumber, you may wish to paint the legs. Consider using chalk or milk paint for the legs to contrast with the rich wood of the table top.
For a solid-wood look, cover the tabletop's layered side edges with veneer edge banding. Or choose a plywood often called architecture-grade or euro style plywood. With more plies and few voids, this plywood's edges are meant to be seen.